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  1. Default First Solo Expedition - Advice/Suggestions/Recommendations Welcomed


    New to the community here. Been planning a road trip for a few months now and as the departure gets closer and closer I'm beginning to wonder if my plans are over ambitious. Looking to get some advice and/or suggestions! Just want to pre-face that I know it's an awful lot of driving and that I'll only be at the parks for a pretty quick glimpse and won't get to fully experience them. And yes, this will be my first time on a solo road trip. Fairly rough itinerary, and am hoping to not really drive more than 5/6 hours a day once I get out to South Dakota. Anyway...

    Day 1-3: Leave home (NYC area) and arrive in Badlands NP in the evening of day 3.
    4: Badlands NP > Mt. Rushmore, then make my way torwards Grand Tetons
    5: Grand Tetons > Yellow Stone
    6: Yellow > Beartooth Highway and make my way up towards Glacier NP
    7-10: Little fuzzy here, but make my way over into the Portland area of Oregon to visit family, and progress down the Pacific Coast highway towards San Francisco
    11: Start heading towards Yosemite at some point in the day
    12: Yosemite and make way towards Death Valley NP
    13: Death Valley > Zion NP
    14: Zion > Bryce > Arches NP
    15: Arches > Canyonlands > Colorado National Monument
    16: Colorado driving
    17: Colorado driving and at some point begin to head back home taking i-70 to St. Louis, and then switching off to US 50 the rest of the way
    ~19: Back home

    Rough route is about 8k miles. Plan on doing a lot of the scenic drives and tours of the parks.

    Thoughts? How crazy am I? Feel like I'm trying to fit the second half of the trip into too small of a time frame (especially all that Utah has to offer). Debating trimming the trip down a bit and saving some places for future trips. I'm not particularly worried about being alone all this time, don't mind it. Though I've never driven this much in such a time frame, I feel as if it shouldn't be that bad, since it'll be a lot of scenic routes and completely new terroritory to me.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default No Fun

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    You already suspect this, but I'll say it anyway: This is too much. Just look at the overall numbers. You plan to do 8,000 miles in 19 days. That means you have to AVERAGE 425 miles per day. Every day for 2½ weeks. For a day or two, such a pace can be fun. By the end of the first week, it's just going to be grueling. By the end of the second week you're going to dread waking up in the morning because it means that you'll just be squeezing yourself into the car for another 8-10 hours of sitting and watching he world pass you by on the other side of the windshield. And that's only if you stick to Interstates and major US highways. "[D]oing a lot of the scenic drives" means that you will have to spend even more time in the car than that. You will have essentially NO time for "tours of the parks".

    If you want to enjoy this trip, or even to be able to get out of the car for more than food/fuel/bathroom breaks, then you need to lop about a third of your planned itinerary off. As you say, you've never driven this much before. Most of us here have and we will tell you it WILL "be that bad", scenic routes and new territory notwithstanding.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    I think you very much have reason to be concerned about your plan. I do think you are being overambitious, and I think you are a very long way away from your goal of only driving 5-6 hours a day.

    Day 1-3: Leave home (NYC area) and arrive in Badlands NP in the evening of day 3.
    That's reasonable, but especially driving solo, that's 3 back to back to back full days on the road is pretty tiring. After this point, you certainly should thinking about slowing things down.

    4: Badlands NP > Mt. Rushmore, then make my way torwards Grand Tetons
    5: Grand Tetons > Yellow Stone
    6: Yellow > Beartooth Highway and make my way up towards Glacier NP
    The problem is you aren't slowing down at all here. These are 3 straight days where you are trying to slam through areas without giving yourself any time to stop and enjoy anything.

    Seeing the Badlands, Rushmore, and making it even halfway to Teton would be at least 6 hours, before you actually factor in time to see the Badlands or Rushmore, much less any of the other great things in the Black Hills.

    Similarly 2 days to drive 300 miles to Grand Teton, and see Teton and Yellowstone, and drive over Beartooth, and continue on towards Glacier is somewhere between impossible and insane. Yellowstone is a huge park that takes at least 2-3 days just to take a quick tour. It's not a joke to say that you won't even have time to drive through most of the park at the pace you're looking at here.

    I could continue going through each one of your legs like this, but it would all be the same. You're basically planning to drive all day, every day, for your entire trip. Saying you won't get to fully experience the parks you're going to all this effort to visit is massive understatement - in most cases, you'll barely have time to drive through them. Heck, in most cases, you're trying to visit 2 or 3 National Parks and drive hundreds of miles all in your "5-6 hours a day."

    Even if somehow you manage just to cover the miles, this is going to be so exhausting, where you never have time to take a breath, much less enjoy anything you'll be flying past, that I just can't see how anyone could come out of a trip like that with a positive experience. I would strongly suggest you cut out a whole lot out of this trip - really trying to go coast to coast in under 3 weeks is a tough slog, even without trying to hit a dozen national parks on top of everything else - so maybe that means abandoning the west coast. If Portland is a must, then most of your southern locations, particularly in Utah probably needs to go.

    Finally, It should also be noted that trying to get from Denver to New York in 3 days at the end of a long trip like this, as a solo driver, really is too much and certainly wouldn't leave time to even consider getting off the freeway. You need to plan for a minimum of 4 days just to account for the inevitable fatigue of being on the road for nearly 3 weeks, even if you cut a whole lot out of this extremely ambitious plan.

  4. #4


    A couple of summers ago I went on a Maryland-South Dakota (Wind Cave area)-N. Wyoming to Yellowstone-Grand Tetons-Bryce-North Rim Grand Canyon-SW Colorado (Mesa Verde)-Denver-Maryland, in 25 days. My legs from MD to the Mississippi River covered a lot of ground in 2 days each way and reaching the more open West provided a driving breather, but in and of itself consumes 4 full days of travel.

    Usually 2 to 3 nights were spent at each of the national parks for exploring, hiking, going to exhibits and relaxing. I can't imagine a more difficult pace to be enjoyable. A year later during a west coast trip I had to divert on the return leg in Salt Lake City and head straight to FL to handle a family emergency and even though I paced myself to 350-450 miles daily it was very tiring.

    Based upon my experience it might be time to scale down the grand plan to the more reasonable plan. Lopping off Glacier and everything west of Glacier (the Portland to Death Valley segment) would provide for a more realistic 19-day voyage.

    Summertime means more vehicles on the highways and more crowds at the national parks and other sights. If you are camping, add some time for setting up camp and breaking down camp. If you are staying at gateway villages outside of the parks then plan for crowded entry into the parks (two summers ago the lines from Grand Tetons going into Yellowstone were significant, not so bad from the northern or eastern entrances).

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